Bringing Home Old Spot


(Based on a true story)
The Lord is my light; then why should I fear? (Hymns, no. 89).

Could any day have been more beautiful?” Emma asked her sister, Martha, as she wiggled her toes in the warm, white sand. The girls were supposed to follow their family’s five cows as they roamed the green hills during the day, making sure they didn’t wander off and get lost or hurt. But this afternoon the cows were grazing in their favorite pasture and showing no signs of moving. Emma and Martha became bored and gave in to the temptation of the nearby beach.

Now the sun was close to setting, and its bright rays made the blue ripples of water on the lake sparkle like jewels. The girls’ family had been among the first to settle on the shores of Bear Lake in northern Utah, and Emma thought that there probably wasn’t any prettier place in the world. Dark green hills surrounding the lake were overgrown with wild raspberry bushes. Emma sighed with happiness.

But six-year-old Martha was thinking of something other than the beauty of the scenery. “I’m starving!” she burst out. “Let’s go home for dinner.”

“All right,” Emma agreed. “I’m hungry, too. Besides, it’s going to get dark soon, and we’d better get the cows home.”

They ran up the hill toward the pasture where they had left the cows. There they were, still happily munching on the grass, just as the girls had left them. Emma shook her head and smiled. She couldn’t imagine any animal more dull than a cow. Martha broke a switch off a nearby tree and headed toward the cows. Emma was getting herself a branch, when she heard Martha shriek.

“Emma! Emma! One’s gone! There are only four! One’s gone!”

Sure enough, only four cows were visible: Belle, Katie, Brown Eyes, and Matilda. Where was Old Spot? The cow was about to calf—that must be why she had left the rest of the herd.

“Martha, Old Spot wandered off somewhere to have her calf!” Emma reasoned. “We have to find her—soon! If something goes wrong, both she and the calf might die. You look in that bunch of trees over there, and I’ll go up that hill.”

The girls ran in separate directions, each shouting Old Spot’s name as they looked in every cluster of bushes and behind every rock and tree. After a few minutes, they met back in the pasture. Evening was not far off.

Emma made a quick decision. “Martha, you take the other cows home. When you get there, ask the boys to come back and help me. I’m going to stay and look for Old Spot.”

Martha’s eyes widened. “All by yourself? But it’ll be dark soon!”

“I know, I know! But it’s my fault Old Spot’s lost. I just have to keep looking!” She shooed her little sister toward the remaining cows. “Now, get going!”

Emma had a sinking feeling in her stomach as she watched her little sister leave. She would never admit it to Martha, but she was afraid, very afraid. Not just for the cow, but because she had always been afraid of the dark. In fact, her earliest memory was of being told to go out to the ditch after dark and fill a pail of water. After only a few nervous steps into the night, the wind rustled some leaves at her feet and an animal cried from the woods, and she had run screaming back to the safety of the house. Fear of the dark had haunted her ever since.

She began looking for Old Spot again, telling herself that finding the cow was too important—this was no time to let her fear get the better of her. But as the light faded from the sky and even the shadows faded into the night, her heart beat faster and she began to feel a little sick. The slightest noise made her jump, and chills ran up and down her spine.

It seemed like she had been searching for hours. Where were the boys? She sat on a boulder and hugged her knees close to her chest, fighting back tears. Her small body began to tremble. Then Emma remembered. Her parents had taught her what to do if she was in trouble. Immediately she got down on her knees.

“Father in Heaven,” she prayed, “I’m sorry we left the cows all alone. I know it is my fault Old Spot’s lost, but I didn’t mean to cause any trouble. If it be Thy will, please help me to find Old Spot. Bless her that she will be all right. And please help me to be brave. Help us both get home safely. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Emma rose from her knees, feeling a little better. She took a big gulp, climbed down off the boulder and began looking for Old Spot once more. To her surprise, she felt a song hovering in the back of her mind, a hymn that she had learned recently in church. She hummed the melody while the words ran through her mind:

The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?
By day and by night his presence is near. *

Before she knew it, she was singing the words out loud. The longer she sang, the better she felt. Soon she no longer felt afraid at all. She knew that with the Lord’s help, she would find the cow and that they both would return home safely.

A few minutes later, Emma saw a long, deep ravine. She was frightened but knew that that was where she must look. She followed the winding gorge for what seemed like a very long time. Just as she was about to turn back, she heard a gentle lowing ahead of her. As she got closer, she could see Old Spot—and the cow was not alone! A newborn calf was wobbling about on shaky legs.

It was slow work driving the mother and baby out of the ravine. Old Spot was tired, and the calf was still very weak. Every once in a while, a coyote’s howl filled the air, seeming very close. Emma was tired and hungry, her bare feet cold and sore. The three of them still had a long walk ahead to reach home. Please, Heavenly Father, she prayed in her heart, just a little bit longer. Help me have the strength to get us home!

Finally the trio came out of the trees and onto the open hillside. Not far below them Emma saw a light. Her brothers had come to their rescue! She flew down the hill and threw herself into her big brother’s arms. “George, I found her! I found Old Spot and her baby!”

George looked down in surprise. “You did? All by yourself?”

“I was so scared, George. But I wasn’t alone. Heavenly Father helped me.”

George grinned. “Well, I’d rather be looking for twenty cows at midnight than face the scolding Ma’s going to give you for losing Old Spot in the first place!”

Emma smiled but didn’t answer. All she could think about was that Heavenly Father had answered her prayer. She and Old Spot and the calf were safe and headed home. And Emma knew that she never had to be alone.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Mike Eagle

Show References

  1.   *

    Hymns, no. 89.